Lafayette granted 640 degrees to 616 graduating seniors and honorary doctorates to four distinguished leaders, including TV journalist Joan Lunden today at the 175th Commencement. The ceremonies began on the Quad, but rain caused them to be completed in Colton Chapel.
Listen to Lunden’s Commencement address: Lunden’s Commencement address
President Daniel H. Weiss awarded Lunden the honorary degree of Doctor of Journalism. Also receiving honorary degrees were Edward W. Ahart ’69, incoming chair of the Board of Trustees and managing partner and chairman of the law firm of Schenck, Price, Smith & King, Florham Park, N.J. (Doctor of Laws); Father Thomas J. Hagan, O.S.F.S., former Catholic chaplain at Lafayette and the founder of the humanitarian organization Hands Together (Doctor of Public Service); and Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), the champion of freedom and leader in the American and French revolutions for whom Lafayette College is named (Doctor of Public Service, posthumously). Count Gilbert de Pusy La Fayette, a descendant of the Marquis de Lafayette, accepted the degree.
Weiss presented a memorial tribute and moment of silence for Marina Petersen ’10, who died this past summer. The MJAC Student Memorial outside of Pardee Hall has been dedicated to her, Jeremy Saxe ’09, Adam Lambert ’08, and Christopher Reynoso ’11.
Michael Adelman ’10 delivered farewell remarks for the class of 2010. He is the recipient of the George Wharton Pepper Prize, awarded to the senior who “most closely represents the Lafayette ideal.” Adelman, of Clarks Summit, Pa., graduated with a B.S. in civil engineering.
The first students to receive their diplomas were Adelman, Michael Hadley ‘10, and Sarah Kolba ‘10, who achieved the highest cumulative grade-point average in the class. Hadley, of Somerville, N.J., received an A.B. with a self-designed major in cognitive science. Kolba, of Chelmsford, Mass., received an A.B. with a self-designed major in Medieval and Renaissance studies.
Teevrat Garg ‘10, Kelly Hilovsky ‘10 and Ian Stone ‘10, co-chairs of the Class of 2010 Gift Committee, presented the class gift. Garg, of Haryana, India, received a B.S. in mathematics and an A.B. with a major in economics and business. Hilovsky, of Douglassville, Pa., received a B.S. in neuroscience. Stone, of Lebanon, N.H., received an A.B. with a major in psychology.
Weiss congratulated the recipients of annual Lafayette awards for distinguished teaching, scholarship, and service to the College and recognized Dan Bauer, professor of anthropology and sociology and director of Technology Clinic, who is retiring and has been elected to emeritus status.
Alan R. Griffith ’64, outgoing chair of the Board of Trustees, recognized trustee Nancy B. Lund ‘74, who is retiring and has been elected to emerita status. Weiss also recognized Griffith, who is stepping down as chair but will remain a member of the Board.
Weiss conferred degrees upon the graduates and delivered farewell remarks. Assisting in presenting diplomas was Susan Niles, professor of anthropology and clerk of the faculty, and Hannah W. Stewart-Gambino, dean of the College.
Guy L. Hovis, John H. Markle Professor of Geology, the faculty member who is senior in the rank of full professor, led the academic procession as Bearer of the Mace. James F. Krivoski, vice president for student affairs, marshaled the class of 2010.
Wendy L. Hill, provost and dean of the faculty, marched at the head of the faculty. Trustee Emeritus Mark B. Weisburger ’55 led the trustees and the platform party.
John Colatch, College chaplain and director of religious life, delivered the invocation and gave the benediction. Emily Wilkins, visiting director of choral activities, led the singing of “America the Beautiful.” Members of the Lafayette Choir led the singing of “The Alma Mater.”
Address by Joan Lunden
175th Commencement, May 22, 2010
Good afternoon, President Weiss, faculty, staff, parents, family and friends, and, of course, the graduating Class of 2010.
I’m truly honored to be speaking to you today and to share in this great celebration. And the fact that President Weiss told me just a little while ago that it was a group of students who had recommended me as the speaker today, that means so much to me.
Now before I begin today. I must share something with you in the spirit of full disclosure. When I first got the call to be your commencement speaker, I picked up the phone and I called my husband. I don’t usually do that when I get a speech request, but I thought that due to the fact that he graduated from Lehigh, maybe there was just a discussion to be had. At first, he said, “Are you kidding? They were our archrivals!” So, I hung up and thought, “I should be sensitive to my husband.” Then he called back a few minutes later and said, “I’ve got an idea! Call them back and tell them if they agree to throw the Lafayette-Lehigh football game, you’ll do it!”
All joking aside, he said, “I am so very proud that they asked you to be the speaker.” But of course today it is your families who are so proud of you. I must tell you that for your parents, this is one of those moments where you kind of marvel that the interval between diapers and diplomas is so short. For you, of course, today is the day that you will enter the real world. And I suspect that there may be a few of you out there who are stressing out about this just a little bit. Where are you going to live? Where are you going to work? How are you going to pay for all that? And Will you be happy and successful?
Of course when you’re in school, it’s all so clear. You know exactly how many credits you need in order to graduate. You know when you really have to buckle down and get serious. Your test scores and your grades measure your accomplishment. The thing about the real world – there is no core curriculum. The whole place is one big elective. The choices are infinite, and the results sometimes uncertain. But how boring would it be if we knew everything that was going to happen? Then there would be nothing to explore and nothing to amaze us.
Once you leave school, you will have to rely upon an inner compass in a world ever-changing at a very rapid pace. How do you know what is the right path to choose? The honest answer is you won’t necessarily know, and that’s okay. Accepting that actually eases a lot of the anxiety, I think, in one’s life experience. I’m sure everybody has told you that you’re supposed to have goals in order to succeed, and certainly that’s true. But I am here today to suggest to you that you leave a little room for the unexpected opportunity that falls into your lap, that diversion from the familiar, comfortable path that might just open you up to new worlds.
You obviously know that you’re facing one of the toughest job markets that this country has seen in decades. I can’t really stress to you enough how important it is for you to keep yourself open to a wide variety of opportunities. Many of you might have to consider jobs that you might not otherwise have been interested in. And don’t feel bad that you don’t even know yet what your dream job is or your dream career. You’ve got lots of to figure that out, and that even will probably change as your garner more experience and find out what it is that you really do well in life, where you can make your mark in life and make a difference in this world of ours.
I’ve got to tell you, when I was growing up, I always thought I would have a career in medicine. My dad was a doctor, he’d go on rounds at the hospital, he always took me with him, and I just always thought I’d be a doctor when I grew up. However, the summer before I went away to college, I took a job at a hospital and I made an amazing discovery that summer: I was definitely not cut out for scalpels and stitches and blood. That wasn’t happenin’. Then when I was a senior in college and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, a family friend just said in passing that television stations were being pressured by the FCC to put more women on their newscasts. This is the early ’70s, and the women’s movement was really heating up. He said, “I really think you ought to just take a look at that.”
Now, I could have very easily let that passing comment go, but I didn’t. I went home, picked up the phone, and make a cold call to the news director at one of the local affiliates. And I got an interview. When I went in to talk to that news director, I took a set of questions with me. I’ve got to tell you, looking back at my career as a whole, picking up that phone and making that call was probably the most important thing I ever did in my career.
I took a set of questions with me and asked that news director what was the potential for a woman in this business, and how was the industry going to be changing over time, and where did he see it going, and what was the best way for someone to prepare for a job in the industry? In essence, what I was doing in that job interview was conducting an interview on the future of his industry. The news director noticed, so he took me down to the studio to audition me. Picking up the phone and making this call and getting inside that studio – that taught me my very first lesson: don’t wait around for good things to happen. You always have to go out and make your own success. And to get the career you want, you have to really explore every avenue.
After the audition, I’ve got to tell you, he was really lovely and very encouraging, but the bottom line is he didn’t have a job for me. However, when I was in that studio that day, the station’s weatherman was back behind the set preparing the maps for the noon newscast. After he saw me do my audition, he followed me out into the parking lot and made me an offer that would change my life forever. He said, “There are a few stations around the country that are putting women on newscasts as weathergirls” – this was so long ago that they could actually get away with calling us weathergirls – “and I would like to train you to become Sacramento’s first weather girl.” The important part of this story is this. I didn’t care about the weather. I didn’t even like science in school. The only thing I cared about the weather was that I didn’t get wet. It didn’t even sound remotely interesting to me. However, somehow I had the good sense to recognize an opportunity when I saw it. It was a way to get my foot in the door of that industry. So I said yes to Harry the weatherman. He set me up not exactly with a job, he set me up with a full-time internship for 80 bucks a week. Thankfully, I was still living with my parents, because it wasn’t a lot of money, but it was an opportunity to collect experience and learn about that industry. To me, the lesson there is that if you want to be in a game, find a way to get yourself onto that playing field, because that’s where you learn the ins and the outs, the corporate culture, and who the important players are, who can actually hire you.
I took on that job with enthusiasm. If there’s only one word that you remember from my today, I hope it is the word enthusiasm. Enthusiasm and passion about what you do – that is what turns an opportunity into a success story. I took on that job and I was everywhere in that newsroom. I made myself so valuable that at one point they had to hire me, they couldn’t afford to lose me. But there was still some resistance to the idea of putting a weathergirl on TV. Then, one morning, my first mentor, good old Harry the weatherman, decided it was time, so he called in sick and then he called me and said, “You’re on.” Six months earlier, I didn’t know a cirrus cloud from a cumulus cloud. So just remember, great careers often begin with inauspicious jobs. I cleaned a lot of weather maps, I got a lot of people coffee, but what that meant was that I was around for a lot of opportunities. And you have to be willing to take those opportunities. I took every one, and that’s how careers are built. You have to be willing to venture out of your comfort zone – that’s certainly true after this day – and be willing to take some risks. You have to be visible. That may sound incredibly basic to you, but you can’t hide out in an office. People can’t help you or hire you or promote you if they don’t know who you are and never hear from you or see you. You always have to be visible and involved. You want to be developing relationships as well as skills.
It’s a funny thing about opportunities. Opportunities are very seldom labeled, and a lot of people have them pass them by because they are not open to them or because they don’t think those possibilities are something for them. They say, “Well, I couldn’t do that.” You have to be open, because otherwise you sell yourself short. You have to be willing, quite frankly, to risk not being great. This is hard for a lot of people, but it’s the only you’ll ever get a chance to learn how to be great. Believe me, I was not great when I started that day on that first broadcast.
But with the job, I grew and in time the news director came back to me and asked me to do some consume reports. I really had to chuckle at that one since I could barely balance my own checkbook, and here I was going to be telling people what to buy and where to shop. But I not only became a wiser consumer with that assignment, I also learned how to find and write and produce stories, and that led to the next opportunity, which was to produce and anchor the noon newscast at that station.
Brand new territory, absolutely terrifying, but by this time my motto had become “Whenever you’re asked to do something, just say yes.” It’s really as simple as that. Just say yes, and then figure out how to do it. Just because you haven’t done something before doesn’t mean that you might not be good at it if you just try. Frankly, I think we are all capable of doing much more than we give ourselves credit. My mom always used to say to me as I was growing up, “The word can’t is not in our dictionary.” In fact, I would venture to say that can’t was a four-letter word at our house. Shakespeare once wrote, “Doubt is a thief that often makes us fear to tread where we might have won.” I took that approach with me when I was recruited from Sacramento to New York City. I was recruited to be a street reporter, and it was an amazing opportunity. There was one little hitch. Back in Sacramento, I had worked as a weathergirl and a consumer reporter, even an anchor, but I had never worked as a street reporter. But of course, remembering my motto, I said yes and headed east to the Big Apple. I figured I’d figure it out when I got there.
I will tell you that on my first assignment in New York City, I clearly remember driving to cover a story on a bombing and conspiracy trial. As we drove up in front of the New York State Supreme Court, a very impressive building, I thought to myself that I’d never actually been inside a courthouse. Then I got out with the film crew, and the cameraman turned to me and said, “How many magazines do you think you’ll need?” I said, “Oh, I don’t think I’ll have time to read any magazines, sir.” Now, if you know anything about film cameras, you might know that that big round part on the top of the camera – that holds the film, and it’s called the magazine. He of course was asking me, “Do you want 300 feet of film or do you think you’ll use 700 feet?” After they the all picked themselves up off the ground in hysterical laughter, they decided I seemed like a pretty nice kid and they would show me the ropes. That is when I learned that it is always a good idea to surround yourself with other people who know more than you. Never be too smart for your own good. If you surround yourself with people who know more than you, they’re the ones who can coach you and mentor you, and that is how you can become better at what you do. I made every news crew my new BFF. And I also found out that if you’re nice to your film crew, they keep you in focus they’ll even maybe tell you if you have spinach on your teeth.
Learning the ropes is not always fun and easy and glamorous in the beginning. It was a tough couple of years for me to learn my trade in the midst of fierce competition on the streets of New York. There were a lot of days when I just wanted to throw in the towel and quit, and you will have those days. Everybody does. You just have to get through them and persevere. Perseverance is the other key ingredient to building a successful career. If you remove failure as an option, your chances for success all of a sudden become infinitely better. So when I asked myself why I gave up my cushy anchor job to run around the streets of New York from murders to fires to protests, deep down I knew the answer. I knew I needed the experience. I needed the experience out in the trenches. I needed the experience out of my safe, suburban environment in which I had been raised to see the poverty and the crime and the injustices and the social and political struggles that I had not seen first-hand. I knew that I needed those layers of compassion and understanding of what people were struggling with before I could ever sit in an anchor chair at a network level and speak about our world with knowledge and empathy and concern.
The advantage, of course, to covering news on the streets of New York is that the producers of network shows live there and see you on the local news. So, about a year after I’d been in the Big Apple, I got a call from the producers at Good Morning America. They asked if I’d be interested in joining their team to report on new products and new ideas. By this time, you know what my answer was: “Yes, of course. No problem!” It meant taking on a lot of work and it meant getting up a lot earlier in the morning, but I was now putting myself onto a bigger playing field where, you never know, an opportunity might come along. And it did. One morning, both of the hosts of Good Morning America were struggling with laryngitis, so, when the news came on a seven o’clock, they were afraid people would have difficulty just listening to them on the air.
I lived only blocks away, and they called me in a panic, saying, “Do you think you could rush in and take over?” I didn’t tell that producer that he had just awakened me from a deep REM sleep. I said, “Absolutely! No problem. I’ll be right there.” The good thing was it all happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to get nervous. But by getting myself out of bed that morning and going in and being on that set, for the first time, the producers of that network show could see me in the role of a potential host.
Over the next few years I worked both jobs, as a local reporter and I did as much work as Good Morning America could possibly give me. One day, I was sitting at my typewriter – do you guys know what those things are? It’s always a dead giveaway to how old you are – getting ready for the local news, and my phone rang. It was my agent telling me that I had gotten a job as co-host of Good Morning America.
Thirty minutes later, my phone rang again. It was my doctor telling me that I was pregnant with my first child. Thirty minutes: delight and dilemma. And soon I would learn about my other new role, that of a working mom. Believe me, blazing that trail was even more treacherous: bringing my babies to work with on the road as a breastfeeding mom. Everyone at the show used to joke that I started the show every day as Joan Lunden but ended as Dolly Parton.
But when I took on that role as co-host, it was also at a time in our country when the management made it very clear to me that I would be, as a woman, second banana to the host, David Hartman. He would interview the celebrities and the world leaders, and I would get the woman stories – health, nutrition, home, education, parenting. And would I be okay with that? Well, obviously it was one of the best jobs on television, so of course I would be okay with that lesser role. If I hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have gotten the job and I wouldn’t have lasted on the job.
One morning Barbara Walters came into the show, and I got that interview that morning. I was so nervous I could hardly talk to her because she had been my role model. But it was what Barbara told me during the commercial break that really made an impact on my career.
She said, “Let me tell you something. If you fight city hall here and you insist that they give you your ‘fair share’ of all the interviews, you’re going to be right where your predecessors are: out the door. Instead, take all the assignments that they are willing to give you and make them shine. If you do that, you’ll be just fine.’ And Barbara was right.
I will tell you also that when you go on job interviews, there was one other piece of advice that Barbara gave me that day. As she started to walk away, she turned around and said, “Oh yeah, one other thing. Always write thank-you notes. Seriously, when some big star is opening in a movie or opening on Broadway and I see the announcement, I write them a note and I say congratulations and good luck. When that movie finally opens, and it’s time for that celebrity to be interviewed, who do you think gets the interview? I have separated myself from the pack.” And so I say to you, that is what you are going to need to do. You are going to need to separate yourself from the pack. As you make your way through your career, when you go in for interviews, the second you are out that door, send that thank-you note. That is how you separate yourself from the other 1.65 million graduates getting bachelor’s degrees today.
Recruiters will tell to “brand yourself,” and that it’s not just who you are in this world of ours but it’s how the world out there – and future employers – see you. In today’s world, might I just add, you are more than your resume. You’re also your Facebook page. I’m an employer and I check Facebook pages. Maybe it’s been a rousing four years here at Lafayette with some times that you may want to forget – maybe some you don’t even remember – but they will live on forever and not be forgotten if they still live on the internet. I urge you to think of it this way: protect your brand. Your brand is very important now as you forge your way through your life. Protect that brand and take the photos off the Facebook page, especially the ones with the underpants on the head. They gotta come off. Just imagine that a future employer is sitting right next to you looking at your web site or your blog, if you have one. Would you be proud of what they’re looking at?
The good news about your generation being so internet-connected and adept in this world of ours, a business world that increasingly dominated by social media, is you have the ability to brand and sell yourself in cyberspace. That is probably one of the most important tools and certainly one of the advantages that you have out there in today’s business world. But I will also say that while cyberspace is the big picture; don’t forget to pay attention to the small stuff. You don’t want your resume chucked or your email deleted because you didn’t pay attention to the small things, like typos and grammar, which has slipped according to many hiring managers due probably to so much texting and shortcutting and the way we all talk to each other these days. But this is a time that you need to separate yourself from the pack and really be a standout.
If there was ever a time for you to say, “I am a grownup now. I don’t need my mom and dad’s help to get me a job,” now is not the time. Now is absolutely not the time to say that. This is the time to look for mentors and this is the time to network. Believe me, your parents and your parents’ friends and your uncles are all part of your network, and you should be using every single one of them.
When you make your way through your career and you go on interviews, remember me – how I went in with my set of questions, and I didn’t have Google. I never had a laptop. I never had a computer the entire time I was working on Good Morning America. I can hardly believe that as I say it today. But you are the Google generation. You can research a company. You can research an industry and find out if it is growing or downsizing or how it’s faltering. You can walk into interviews today so incredibly knowledgeable, with relevant questions, and you want to impress future employers with your work ethic, with your drive, with your passion to make a difference in this world.
Those qualities are intoxicating. They are enticing and they are very valuable to a company. People have often asked me, “What was the hardest thing about doing Good Morning America for 20 years?” You know, I could probably cite politicians who were testy and didn’t want to answer or rock stars who were stoned and couldn’t answer, but in my opinion, the biggest challenge was to go on air every morning at 7 a.m. with a positive attitude and an enthusiasm and an exuberance for life. Because I knew that my attitude would be the first thing that would affect the viewer, even prior to any information that I had to deliver.
A positive attitude has a tremendous impact on other people, but more importantly, it has a very powerful impact on you. The most important opinion that you can have is the opinion that you have of yourself. The most important things that you say all day long are the things that you say to yourself. I truly believe that my enthusiasm and my positive outlook on life have been key in helping me get to the top of my profession and in making it enjoyable along the way.
One of my favorite stories about the importance of approaching a job with the right attitude is a story about one of the very first executive producers of the Today Show. His name was Stuart Schulberg. Schulberg was standing on the set one morning, and Barbara Walters was getting ready to do a live Alpo dog commercial. We used to do those, even when I first started on the show. There was this golden retriever, Lucky. He was obediently standing there waiting for his cue – that was going to be the bowl of dog food.
The stage hands rolled the demo table out onto the set, and got Lucky up onto the demo table. “Fifteen seconds!” They made sure to get Barbara Walters in place to do the commercial. “Ten seconds!” “Ten, nine, eight. . . .” All of a sudden Lucky pooped on the demo table. “Six, five. . . .” All the young staff members stood there aghast. “Four, three. . . .” Stuart Schulberg, the executive producer, quietly and quickly stepped forward, scooped the poop into his hand, and stepped back. “Two, one. . . .” “My, what a hungry dog Lucky is today,” said Barbara.
When the commercial was over, Stuart Schulberg walked over to the young staff and said, “This is the difference between what you do and what I do. I do whatever it takes to get the job done and get the show on the air.” No job was too small. No job was beneath him. I only hope for every one of you graduates that you have attitude and that passion for what you choose to do in life.
It is that flame, that flame, that makes leaders. It is that flame that ignites that passion in all of those around you. The great poet William Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This college has dedicated itself to that end: to see that all of you leave here today excited, involved, passionate, caring men and women who will carry a torch and make a difference in this world. You may think that your education is over, but, believe me, the learning continues. You want to be lifelong learners. That’s what I loved about my job. It nurtures my curiosity, it challenges my ideas, and it constantly exposes me to new ways of thinking. This world of ours needs lifelong learners. It needs risk-takers. It needs leaders, fire-starters. What it needs most, more than anything, is it needs people who ground their decisions in value and integrity and who have a sense that community is as important as self.
If you only remember a few things from today, let it be these. Whenever you are offered a new opportunity, just say yes and then figure out how to do it. Remember that you have to want it more than you are afraid of it. The biggest boundaries that we face in our lives are very often the ones that we create ourselves in our minds. The boundaries of our achievement are primarily self-imposed. I say to you, look inside yourself to find the personal courage to explore and expand your horizons. For that is going to greatly increase the options that you have in your lives. Do not let your fears betray your hopes. Hold on strong to your positive attitude and optimism. Try to do something that you love and then get someone to pay you for it. Find that way in which you can make a difference in this world of ours, and the success will follow. Each one of us can make a difference and together we have tremendous power to create new laws, raise funds, back needed research, and bring about social change. Your generation may be that generation that finds the cure for AIDS or cancer or MS.
Finally, the only future that each of you will have is the future that you create for yourself. We all write our own life story, and you write what’s going to be on your next page. Your story will not be determined so much by what life brings to you, but by what you bring to life. If you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, you can rewrite and rewrite as many times as you like. So don’t sweat it. You can change your mind later on. There’s a good reason why they call these ceremonies commencement. Graduation is certainly not the end. It is just the beginning. I offer to all of you, graduates and family and friends, heartfelt congratulations.